Belgium has seen a significant rise in people being admitted to hospital for coronavirus, as experts warned the disease had not yet reached its peak, reports my colleague Jennifer Rankin in Brussels.
At a daily briefing, Belgium’s federal crisis centre announced that 434 people had been admitted to hospital in the last 24 hours, an increase of 50% on the previous day. Hospital admissions had declined for two consecutive days, although experts had previously warned against calling that decline a trend.
Belgium now counts 4,937 people with a coronavirus diagnosis, an increase of 668 cases in the last 24 hours. A total of 178 people have lost their lives, including 56 recorded in the last count. Officials said not all had died in the last 24 hours and there had been delays in recording people who had passed away in care homes.
Crisis centre spokesman Emmanuel André said the increase in hospitalisations was significant: “It is very clear that we are not yet at the peak of the epidemic.” He added that it was very important that current measures – a nationwide lockdown – remain in force.
And he urged people not to wear surgical masks in the street, voicing concern that they give a “false impression of protection”, as people are less diligent in washing their hands.
Belgium’s prime minister Sophie Wilmès has been put on the defensive, after two surgeons criticised the government in a widely-shared open letter for not having enough tests for medical staff or patients, as well as a shortage of masks.
In a letter entitled “the double penalty on hospital staff” the medics deplored the lack of systematic tests for medical staff, meaning they could infect patients or family.
In a three-page reply published in Belgian media on Wednesday, Wilmès said the government was “working without respite” to safeguard the health of the population and medical staff. She said that in the last ten days 11.5m surgical masks and 459,000 specialist masks had arrived in the country and work was ongoing to increase stocks further.
This is Alexandra Topping, taking over from my colleague Damien Gayle on the global coronavirus liveblog.
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